FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (CWN) - Rebel soldiers loyal to the ousted military government released seven Westerners, including five Catholic missionaries, they were holding hostage, local Catholic officials said on Saturday.

      The five missionaries included three Spaniards, one Austrian, and one Italian, and the two others were a Frenchman and a Canadian with the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres. "They were released yesterday afternoon, after the mediation of the Bishop of Makeni," Father Ercole Marcellini of the Xaverian Brothers order in Freetown. "I'm told that they are in good condition, that they are well."

      The hostages were taken two weeks ago after West African peacekeepers expelled the junta troops from the capital of Freetown. Father Marcellini said up to 50 church workers, including more than 20 foreigners, remained trapped in the northern town of Makeni.

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March 3, 1998 volume 9, no. 44         DAILY CATHOLIC